It’s not a “Heaven’s Gate” level debacle. Nor is it a bomb or any such inflammatory charge. The Ghostbusters reboot crossed the $100 million mark recently. That’s great for most films, but summer blockbusters are assumed to smash that threshold.
The Ghostbusters reboot came in at number 7 during its third weekend of release. The film’s theater count is shrinking, and “Suicide Squad” is expected to annihilate the competition when it opens Aug. 5.
“Ghostbusters” cost $144 million to make. Tack on well north of $100 million in marketing and related costs, and the film must make a killing at the global box office to break even.
Director Paul Feig himself said the movie needs to haul in $500 million to justify its existence. And, presumably, greenlight a sequel.
If we do see a “Ghostbusters 2,” it won’t be for financial reasons.
What happened? The project became the latest front in the culture wars, for starters. Suddenly, a movie featuring four female leads became a litmus test for Hollywood sexism.
The movie itself isn’t a winner, but it’s filled with colorful banter and a breakout turn by Kate McKinnon. That wasn’t enough, apparently. It’s not the only reason the movie under-performed.
Here are the seven ways the film’s studio, Sony, blew what could have been Hollywood’s newest film franchise.
- Poorly Thought Out Gloating: Sony Pictures head Tom Rothman initially cursed out those critical of the reboot — “F*** ’em.” Later, Rothman cheered the gender controversy his team helped stir up on behalf of the film. “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened. Are you kidding me? We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?” Wonder what he’s saying today?
- They’re With Her (Part 1): It’s natural for the stars of a given film to work the talk show circuit. That certainly includes “Ellen,” the daytime chatfest featuring the charming Ellen DeGeneres. Only when the “Ghostbusters” cast appeared on the show they were joined by Hillary Clinton. That wasn’t an accident. For those not paying attention, she’s the deeply unpopular, polarizing candidate for the White House. That divisive decision certainly cost the movie a few ticket sales. Maybe much more.
- Make Love, Not War: It’s absurd that some movie fans slammed the female-led reboot without seeing it. A chunk of that reaction could clearly be blamed on sexism, but passion for the source material also figured into the equation. That’s how Geek Nation rolls. Online types type out nasty comments in a huff about projects they care deeply about. Just ask Ben Affleck after he was cast as the Dark Knight. So when some geeks savaged the “Ghostbusters” reboot sight unseen it wasn’t something new. The movie team’s reaction was, though. They fought back. Hard. In the process, they slammed a whole swath of potential movie goers, painting all skeptics with a sexist brush.
- That Trailer: It was awful. Period. Trailers matter in today’s film universe. Look at the pre-release excitement over “Suicide Squad.” Think that’s all about the alluring Margot Robbie? It is … to a point. Those sneak peeks ruled, whetting our excitement for the feature itself. The limp jokes stuffed into the first “Ghostbusters” trailer snuffed out excitement over seeing Slimer and co. again.
- (Awkward) Gender Card Embrace: Team Ghostbusters tried to play it both ways. We were told the female casting was simply finding the funniest people for the roles. And that just so happened to lead them to the four women who appear in the film. The marketing push also played up the feminist angle. Compare that to “Suicide Squad,” which prominently features Robbie in a critical role in a genre dominated by men. That film’s studio didn’t draw attention to that fact. It let Robbie’s performance speak for itself.
- They’re With Her (Part 2): Last week, the team behind the Ghostbusters Twitter account sent out an obviously pro-Clinton message. Then Sony claimed it wasn’t what we thought and yanked it down. And then Feig complained about it being removed and said He’s With Her, too. Summer blockbusters shouldn’t get political lest they antagonize key demographics. Republicans buy movie tickets, too.
- Big Budget Blues: One reason for that $144 price tag? Those expensive FX. Sure, they look neat, but does a sci-fi comedy need state of the art visuals? Many indie films whip up amazing visuals on a tight budget. Had “Ghostbusters” did the same, all the talk might be about a sequel to a modestly successful film. Instead, we’re discussing how the reboot isn’t making enough cash to satisfy the bean counters.